When used properly, CPAP can be a life-saving device. However, Philips Respironics recently issued a recall because some of their devices may actually lead to life-threatening complications.

People using certain models of Philips Respironics CPAP machines are encouraged to stop using them immediately, but people using related Philips Respironics ventilator devices should continue in their normal use. We recommend that all Philips CPAP users in the Omaha, NE area should consult with their doctor as soon as possible to find other solutions that can better promote their long-term overall health. 

man holding a product recall card

Why the Recall

The recall is related to the polyester-based foam that is used for sound abatement in the devices. CPAP and ventilators can be quite loud, making it difficult for users to sleep. Making CPAP machines quieter has been a long-term goal for the industry, which is why Philip Respironics used the foam.

However, the foam they chose, Pe-Pur, has two different potential problems as it degrades.

First, the degrading foam may turn into fine particles. These particles can then enter the air pathway, which means they will be forced into the lungs and/or stomach of CPAP users.

Second, the Pe-Pur foam may give off toxic gasses that can be inhaled by CPAP or ventilator users.

The foam degradation seems to be accelerated by environmental conditions that include high heat and humidity. Philips Respironics notes that these issues might be worsened by the use of unapproved cleaning methods, such as ozone cleaners.

The number of complaints related to the foam degradation is relatively small, only about 3 in 10,000 individuals. However, the company notes that the scale of the problem is potentially much larger. 

Signs of Exposure

How do you tell if you might have been exposed to particulates or gasses? Here are some of the potential effects you might notice from foam degradation and/or outgassing:

  • Presence of black debris or particles in the:
    • Tubing
    • Mask
    • Humidifier
    • Device outlet
  • Headache
  • Upper airway irritation
  • Cough
  • Chest pressure
  • Sinus infection

These have all been reported previously. You might have other symptoms that have not yet been registered in connection with this issue. 

Potential Risks from Devices

The inhalation of toxic particles and/or gasses could potentially lead to serious health problems, which is what encouraged Philips to issue the recall. Philips says that the potential harms from exposure to particulates include:

  • Irritation of skin, eye, and respiratory tract
  • Swelling and redness
  • Headache
  • Asthma
  • Adverse impact on kidneys and liver
  • Toxic carcinogenic effects

Philips notes that these effects are considered to be a worst-case scenario. However, lab analysis did confirm that the foam particulates contained compounds that could kill cells in the lab and could trigger mutagenic responses such as might lead to cancer development. 

In addition, Philips notes that people inhaling the toxic outgassing might experience:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irritation of eyes, nose, respiratory tract, and skin
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Toxic carcinogenic effects

These effects are also considered worst-case scenarios. In fact, Philips notes that there have been no reports of people being negatively impacted by the gasses. Lab tests confirmed the presence of several toxic and carcinogenic gasses emitted from the foam and devices. For some of the chemicals, emission seems to happen mostly at first, tapering off within days. Other chemicals seem to increase over time.

Philips Respironics also notes that so far, no one has died as a result of exposure to either the particulates or the toxic outgassing. 

Is It Time to Reconsider CPAP?

Based on this recall, there is no specific reason for people to decide not to use CPAP. The reports of harm are highly infrequent, and there have been no serious complications to date. However, for people who are already having difficulty using their CPAP for the full recommended time (at least 4 hours a night on 70% of nights, though 6 hours a night are likely best for getting good results), this recall might be a wake-up call that there might be a better alternative to CPAP for sleep apnea treatment.

While CPAP machines can be more complicated, they are an effective solution for many patients. On the other hand, oral appliance therapy uses a simpler approach to sleep apnea treatment, one with few parts that can cause problems. With the addition of comfort, ease of use, and convenient cleaning and travel, there are many reasons why oral appliance therapy might be a more attractive alternative right now. 

Looking for CPAP Alternatives in Omaha?

If you are not having a good experience with your CPAP machine–whether or not it’s impacted by the recall–now might be the right time to look for an alternative approach to treating your CPAP. At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, we can help you understand your alternatives and which sleep apnea treatments can help you enjoy a long and healthy life with full nights of deep sleep.

Please call (402) 493-4175 today or use our online form to book an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist today.